Gardeners Getting Hotter

No, I’m not talking about sexy gardeners, although I’m sure there are some of those. I’m talking about the weather.

This is the time of year when home gardeners, and even big time farmers, begin perusing the seed catalogs to help them decide what to plant this spring. But before you place that order, you might want to take a look at this. 

Don’t take my word for it, take the word of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. They have issued a new version of it’s plant hardiness zone map. And the conclusion is clear: the weather is getting warmer.

This update is the first the USDA has issued in more than a hundred years, showing how much the climate is changing and how quickly. These zones indicate where  plants rated for different zones will survive the winter and when to plant your vegetables. In general, the zones have moved North.

Farmers in colder regions of the country have already noticed a longer growing season. This may change what and when you plant your garden this year. The good news for those in the Northern regions is that the growing options are greater than they were. But in the South and West, it could mean more instances of drought and a harder time for more delicate plants.

But the USDA is not putting all the blame on climate change. Officials there say more detailed mapping techniques have also made a difference in how many zones there are and where the boundaries are drawn.

More and more people are growing food in their backyards, on the roofs of buildings, in vacant lots and even on their patios and balconies. So you may want to ready those seed catalogs a little more carefully this year. And if you’re a super-nerd, like me, you might enjoy this interactive map at the USDA’s website.